As a constituent of state representative Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, we're used to watching our fearless leader undergo 180-degree shifts in where he stands on policy.
For instant, he weighed in against funding rural broadband in a 2014 televised debate, but now pitches himself as one of its biggest boosters.
Likewise, when he campaigned for office the first time in 2012, he thought that job creation was best left to the private sector:
Healthy and sustainable job growth resides in the private sector. Government is not capable of anything more than short term jobs because their [sic] is no incentive for profit...and therefore growth.
Now he's sponsoring a bill have the state to lease the private CCA-owned prison at Appleton because this will create what he describes as "hundreds of good-paying union jobs to unemployed Swift County residents."
But we've never seen anything quite so swift and dramatic as his abrupt swing on criminal justice reform.
Miller on criminal justice reform: from "crazy" to telecaring
In a March 2 tweet, Representative Miller characterized Senator Ron Latz's criminal justice reforms as "let them out" and "crazy":
DOC projects over 1300 bed need by 2022. Comm Roy's solution "send them to county jails" Sen Latz "let them out" Crazy. #openappleton— Tim Miller (@timmiller_mn) March 2, 2016
And what are the details of the "let them out" "crazy" from Senator Latz? The next day, the Senate Majority posted this list in a larger press release, Senator Ron Latz Announces Prison Population Reform Package:
While overall crime is down, Minnesota is incarcerating a record number of people. This has led to prisoners being housed in local jails – giving rise to safety concerns for both staff and prisoners – has adversely impacted the Department of Corrections ability to provide adequate rehabilitative services to inmates, and is creating a significant financial burden on the state. Sen. Latz’s proposal contains several pieces of legislation that addresses these concerns. They include:
- Fund the governor’s bonding request to increase the Challenge Incarceration Program at MCF-Togo and MCF Willow River.
- Funding to increase capacity at MCF Lino Lakes and require that those beds be dedicated to mental health and chemical dependency (CD) treatment.
- Appropriate money to expand the EMPLOY program which helps released offenders find employment.
- Appropriate money for increased mental health and CD treatment services.
- Appropriate money for re-entry programs that link offenders with services in the community to help them successfully rejoin their families and communities.
- Take no legislative action on the proposed Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission changes to the sentencing grid in order to allow the changes to take effect.
Senator Latz said the reform package will move Minnesota toward national sentencing norms while better using our corrections system to rehabilitate our fellow citizens and still maintaining public safety. . . .
By last week, Representative Miller had experienced a change of heart, which he expressed in the most sincerest of words and facial expressions during an interview for a feature about the prison issue that was aired on TPT Almanac in the March 25, 2016 episode. The feature begins here at the 16:37 point and ends at 22:30 (TPT no longer supplies embed code since its site was redesigned, or we'd embed the entire clip).
Some of Miller's statements:
LaHammer: Did you know what you were getting into with this bill?
Miller: I believe that I did. . . .Even when I was campaigning, I said that this was a need and an opportunity out there, and so I campaigned, I said I'm going to help get the Appleton prison open again...
Is there potential for people to be wrongly accused and therefore wrongly and therefore in prison for the wrong reason? Does that happen? I believe so, but I believe the penal system in the United States is among the best in the world.
Do we need to look at sentencing reform? I'm all for it. Having people in for a little bit too long for the lesser offenses . . .
Then, after some footage of the hearing, the clip cuts back to an interview with Miller:
It's difficult to express this when I'm saying, "Open the Prison," but I want them to know that I do understand quite a bit, I don't quite understand, I appreciate that, but I understand their pain, their angst, and this disparity of African-Americans in the prison system I think is reflective of our society that we have a problem. And I want to be able to fix those things.
How crazy is that? We will be keeping an eye out for Miller's name on the House companion bills to the senate bills related to Latz's reforms.
Miller: Dayton equity programs are ACORN's handiwork
Unfortunately, Miller isn't convinced of measures that might address the other problems of racial disparities that are "reflective of our society." We're guessing that Mary LaHammer interviewed Representative Miller about the bill before the House broke for the Easter holiday.
By Good Friday, Miller was dissing items designed to address those larger racial disparities in the Governor's supplemental budget, sharing an Alpha News article while evoking the long shadow of the six-year dead group ACORN. Miller wrote this headnote on his Facebook wall:
We have not seen a plan to this point and have no idea what he intends to spend the money on. Don't be fooled by statements like "existing community programs". No one says they are effective or true to any proven efforts. Think ACORN.
The copy in the story from the conservative news service doesn't support that summary. The unsigned article reports:
Racial equity is a hot button issue being pushed by Black Lives Matter, Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and Minneapolis NAACP among others, but according to these groups change has not been achieved. The Star Tribune reports that each of these groups were able to voice their concerns to Dayton in the months leading up to the release of his proposed supplemental budget.
Included in Dayton’s proposal is funding for the Department of Human Rights, a statewide agency that addresses racial discrimination, workforce training, capital infusions to help businesses, and “equity and opportunity” grants. Of the proposed $100 million to be spent on equity programs, roughly $33 million would be at the discretion of the legislature. A clear depiction of Dayton’s proposed method of allocating funds can be seen below (numbers in the millions).
ACORN? Miller must be operating under the same delusion that seized Pat Garofalo on the same day of session when he summoned the ghost of ACORN while speaking on the House floor. We reported the incident in ACORN-obsessed rep attributes proposal to group dissolved before Dayton's 1st term.
Would Representative Miller have evoked the name of ACORN to the people who appeared at last Tuesday's hearing to call out of turn about the injustice they perceive not just in re-opening the prison, but in spending money to lock people up rather than address disparities?
He certainly seems awfully compassionate when interviewed for public television it's likely that Mary LaHammer brings out the best in people. But on social media? Not so much.
Perhaps the groups who visited with the governor could make an appointment for an office visit with Representative Miller to explore his new-found interests in criminal justice reform and racial disparities.
Almanac: supporters "drove hours;" Appleton Option's bus did the driving
LaHammer reported that supporters from Appleton "drove hours" last week. That's not particularly accurate, since nearly all rode into town on a free bus, and received a free lunch as well. We see nothing wrong with the practice, though it should not be spun as individuals driving.
The photo above is from the pro-prison Appleton Option page post,We are on our way, so perhaps Alamanac's pity party might be toned down just a tad.
Moreover, whenever progressives bring in bus loads of people, we hear about employees of unions, non-profits and such being bused in. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.
Photos: Still of Miller on Almanac (above); screengrab of Miller's "ACORN" post (middle); The Appleton Option's motor coach to last Tuesday's hearings.
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