In this time of strategic deceptions and unprecedented assaults on truth-tellers, Minnesota needs a state auditor who is committed to defending unbiased data and to giving local leaders straightforward answers to complex financial questions.
Solid numbers and frank analysis aren’t the flashiest topics of this political season, but they can be powerful tools for improving the lives of Minnesotans. It’s a lesson I learned decades ago from my mother in Anoka County and a big reason I’m running for state auditor.
My mom joined the Burns Township Road and Bridge Committee with the unglamorous goal of paving the dirt roads in our neighborhood. It was hard for kids to ride their bikes on packed dirt. A dust cloud hung over our neighborhood all summer and the mud was ankle deep after every spring thaw.
Because she had the right information and analysis, my mom was able to find the resources to improve our road and other roads in other neighborhoods. That may sound like a small thing compared to fixing health care in America or funding our schools. But to me, it meant my friend with asthma could ride her bike with us again. Our neighbor on oxygen could enjoy an evening on his porch.
Those are the sort of human-sized, life-changing projects a committed state auditor can encourage. Responsible for oversight of more than $20 billion in local government spending, the state auditor meets with local officials and provides the training, data and analysis they need to make good decisions to benefit their communities.
My career has prepared me for the job, from teaching math in the Anoka-Hennepin Public School District for 12 years, to the presidency of a labor union of 2,800 educators to, most recently, working as the chief financial officer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. As a leader in the state labor federation, I worked last year to pass the historic, bipartisan pension bill as a member of the Public Employee Pension Coalition. That law rebalanced the state pension funds on which 173,000 Minnesotans depend. Because Minnesotans who earn those pensions spend most of that money in their own communities, stable pensions benefit our whole state.
I’ve taught algebra to 150 middle-schoolers every day for over a decade, debated the finer points of Minnesota’s convoluted school finance system and managed the books of a labor federation with more than 300,000 members. And I’ve done it honestly and always tried to include Minnesotans on the margins.
My opponent, Pam Myrha, cannot say the same. When the Star Tribune Editorial Board endorsed her campaign for auditor (“Pam Myhra is best pick for auditor,” Oct 29), it neglected to note or condemn the fact that her campaign website is spreading racially charged allegations that public money for day-care centers operated by new Minnesotans was funneled to overseas terrorist groups.
Myhra has refused to disavow these inaccurate smears against our neighbors. Attempts to divide Minnesotans for political gain based on how we look — or where we pray — are simply unacceptable, especially when the president is using his voice to inflame racial fears on a daily basis.
When politicians are willing to call anything they don’t like “fake news” and fearmongering on race and religion is a routine campaign tactic, wouldn’t it be nice to have a state auditor you can trust to play it straight with the numbers and explain the issues as a good teacher would?
The members of the DFL thought so when they endorsed me for state auditor. If you agree, I would be honored to be your honest partner in any township, city or county in Minnesota. With good data and clear analysis, we can do important work in your neighborhood — just as my mom did in hers all those years ago.
Julie Blaha is the DFL candidate for state auditor.