Saturday, May 28, 2016

I hear Tom is running...

In recent days, I have had several people encourage me to run for Hastings City Council. I really appreciate everyone’s thoughts and several offers of significant financial and logistical help. I’ve also had local elected officials tell others that I am running, without actually asking me. However, I already have several things on my plate that I would need to sacrifice in order to run and serve in an elected capacity for a minimum of four years. 
Plus, I believe I can have a much larger impact on my community and achieve my goal of getting more residents involved in their government on the outside of City Hall than occupying a chair on the inside. Also, on a personal note, while my wife’s health is currently good, the next three years are critical in determining her long-term prognosis.
I’m energized about the coming months and years here in Hastings, and I plan on remaining very involved in the community. For instance, this fall, I will begin serving as a council member on the Flint Hills Resources Community Advisory Council (CAC), representing Hastings, monitoring activities and environmental conditions at the Pine Bend refinery and their effects on surrounding cities.
I will continue hosting “Everybody Loves Politics,” my monthly politically oriented show on Hastings Community TV — which will undoubtedly be a blast during the upcoming presidential campaign. This is one of my favorite things to do and I’d have to give it up if I ran for office.
I’m part of a growing group of citizens that’s reviving the Hastings Democracy Project, an initiative that existed 10 years ago and had a major impact on the city — giving birth to HPAAC and contributing ideas to build a better city trail system. Look for more on that soon, with many new people already on board and plenty of opportunities to involve even more in the near future.
I’m also going to continue, and expand, what I’m doing with Hastings Happenings, which started out as a community website in 2008 and has evolved into a blog and popular Facebook page with more than 1,700 followers. For example, over the past few months, I have spent more than $300 promoting Facebook posts to build awareness of the city council election filing period, encourage people to run, and provide links to helpful resources. Several challengers have since filed for election and there’s the potential of having three new council members starting in January. Stay tuned for even more coverage of community issues from Hastings Happenings.
And, I’ll continue to be a proud member of HPAAC, having worked on their gala event last fall and assisting in communications and PR efforts for this amazing and talented local group of artists. With the new Artspace building on the way downtown and additional outlets for the arts happening in Hastings, I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
You can indeed make a big difference where you live without running and serving as an elected official. The notion that somehow you can’t ask questions, seek more information, or expect a more responsive and well-run government as a private citizen is just false. Many people who should be contributing their perspectives to community decisions buy into this and never get involved because they think they’d have to run for office, or spend countless hours in meetings.
Because I have dared to share my opinion and offer my perspective, I’ve actually had several local elected officials tell me “if you don’t like the way I do things, why don’t you run?” So, by that logic, if I disagree with something Governor Dayton does or says, I have no right to question or criticize it unless I run for governor?
Elected officials sometimes forget who the boss is — the citizens. And the minute you start limiting access to their viewpoints, tuning them out, telling them to “sit down and shut up” at meetings (yes, it happened here in 2014), or writing nasty social media posts to constituents, is the minute you need to be replaced.
So there you have it. Not running, but more involved than ever.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Using fear as a weapon

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about fear. There’s certainly a lot of it going around nowadays. It seems like every time you see the news, there’s a report of another terrorist attack, mass shooting, or both, in a foreign country or even right here in America. Lately, it even seems hard to keep track of the reasons why our flags are at flying at half staff. So it’s natural that we are all a bit nervous that something might happen to us or someone we know. 

Since the beginning of time, fear has been a great motivator. Sometimes just the mere hint of a pending invasion by another country was enough to make nations surrender. Leaders know that the scarier they make something appear, they can get their citizens to respond in ways that often seem irrational. 

During the Cold War, as America and the Soviet Union faced each other down in Europe and built stockpiles of nuclear weapons, all of us lived in fear of an all-out nuclear war. They called it “Mutually Assured Destruction” or MAD, and it worked incredibly well. Just search YouTube sometime for examples of films like “Duck and Cover,” which were shown to young schoolchildren convinced that their classroom desk could save them from a Soviet ICBM. 

In the 80s at the height of the Reagan era, I went to high school in Omaha, Nebraska – not too far from Strategic Air Command – otherwise known as “Ground Zero, USA” because so many Soviet missiles were aimed at it. In fact, Strategic Air Command always kept a plane flying in the air over Omaha with a general who held the launch codes for an all-out attack on Russia. Needless to say, it felt quite ominous when it flew over my house. 

In our personal lives, fear also governs much of what we do. We put up fences around our homes, buy extra padlocks and alarm systems, and avoid certain parts of town after dark. And in the American tradition, if owning one gun is good, owning two must be even better, right? 

So it’s not surprising that some individuals running for political office through the years have used fear in order to rally people behind their cause. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson suggested that Republican Senator Barry Goldwater was eager to use nuclear weapons against North Vietnam. In 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale ran a TV spot against President Reagan, saying that the Strategic Defense Initiative or “Star Wars” would actually lead to an escalation in the nuclear arms race. 

And not to be left out, the Republicans have certainly used fear in their campaigns. In 1988, George Bush painted Democrat Michael Dukakis as “soft on crime” and aired the famous Willie Horton ad, featuring a man who committed a rape while he was furloughed from prison in Massachusetts. The implication was that if Dukakis were elected, the gates of America’s prisons would swing open on Inauguration Day, allowing hardened criminals to roam the streets.

Most recently on the Republican side, fear has been the preferred campaign weapon of choice for billionaire and professional talker Donald Trump. First, Trump warned us about rapist Mexicans coming to steal our jobs, then it was women in the news media, then it was Senator John McCain, then he mocked disabled people, then it was immigrants from everywhere. He has encouraged his fans to “rough up” Latinos and African-Americans at his rallies. And now he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, even if they are citizens or returning from serving abroad in our armed forces.

Why do glorified carnival barkers like Trump use fear when running for such an important office? Because it works, pure and simple. But as long as we understand what it is, and recognize when it is being used, we don’t have to stand for it. 

It’s time for all of us, Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike, to find leaders who can motivate us through optimism and positive ideas for our country, rather than seeking to divide us. There’s no reason it can’t happen if we want it to. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hastings Council Candidate Forum Now on YouTube

Here's the link to the Hastings City Council candidate forum held July 24. Please remember to get out and VOTE on Tuesday, Aug. 12. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hastings llama breeders mentioned in New York Times article

Sue Morgan and one of her mini-llamas in Hastings.
Susan and George Morgan of Hastings have an unusual side business - they raise llamas just outside of town.

The couple, which operates Gemini Mini-Llamas, was recently mentioned in a New York Times article about folks around the country who have taken up this vocation.

From the Times article:

It’s part of the bonding process, said Susan Morgan, 54, a home-care nurse in Hastings, Minn., who breeds miniature llamas with her husband, George, 56, an engineer. “They recognize each other by the hum,” she said. Two months after one of her females gave birth, Ms. Morgan said, they were still humming at each other.
Her husband said he gets a lot of questions about it. “People come up to me and ask, ‘Why are the llamas humming?’ ” he said. “And I’ll say, ‘Because they don’t know the words.’ ”

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hastings in the news: Voices of Hope DVD for breast cancer caregivers

Inspiring today to see a press release come over about Voices of Hope: Family and Friends, a DVD dedicated to the caregivers of recovering breast cancer patients.

This was put together by the Hastings Breast Cancer Support Group - a local group that has done great things to benefit patients, their friends and family members all over the United States. Congratulations to them for their success, and thanks for your efforts! (And they are taking donations, so please give what you can).

The release was picked up by the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee.

From the release: Voices of Hope: Family and Friends is in DVD format and may be played on any TV, computer or DVD player. It is the second DVD in the Voices of Hope series created by the Hastings Breast Cancer Support Group of Hastings, Minnesota. Voices of Hope, first in the series, was designed to offer comfort, direction and helpful resources for patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer and the people who love them. You'll hear first hand from real women sharing their journey from diagnosis to treatment to recovery. Voices of Hope speaks from the heart in only the way a survivor can to talk to someone newly diagnosed. This DVD has made a huge difference in the journey of many, many patients.  

The Voices of Hope series is available online at On this website you are able to view three minute trailers of both of the DVDs available. Please note that these DVDs are not-for-profit and that Voices of Hope makes no income from this labor of love. However, due to costs of production and distribution, any donations are greatly appreciated.

Read more here: