To: Mr. Joel Brandenberger
President, National Turkey Federation
1225 New York Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20005
Dear Mr. Brandenberger:
You see a lot of turkeys, but you’ve never seen a flock like this.
WeWork announced earlier this year that it would complete an initial public offering (IPO) valued in excess of $47 billion. But an odd thing happened just before the IPO was to take its maiden flight. The company was forced to withdraw it. Analysts questioned the accuracy of many of the financial numbers contained in the initial filing. While the WeWork IPO didn’t take flight, co-founder Adam Neumann did—tossed out of the company by the board of directors. The IPO ultimately collapsed and the company required a bailout by Japan’s SoftBank, resulting in projected layoffs of half its workforce. This IPO that wouldn’t fly deserves to be called a turkey, but the business of selling the use of an asset instead of its equity has a future, so this can’t be the turkey of the year—just one of a flock.
We can always count on state government to supply turkey candidates. State senator, then commissioner, Tony Lourey is the turkey in this category. After extensive lobbying on his behalf, new Gov. Tim Walz appointed Lourey commissioner of the Department of Human Services. The DFL was one vote short of majority status in the state Senate until Walz appointed Lourey. Creating an additional open Senate seat did not sit well with Sen. Tom Bakk, who, as a result, became a three-vote minority leader and reacted with a sound that would drown out any flock of turkeys. But it got worse.
Within a few months of Lourey’s appointment, the department’s top deputies announced they were both quitting. And then Lourey abruptly resigned. The deputies then announced they were returning, and general disorganization ensued.
The governor found his footing quickly, first by appointing the Swiss army knife of acting administrators, Pam Wheelock, and later Jodi Harpstead as commissioner. Harpstead came to this appointment as the CEO of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and is widely respected as an effective leader. Lourey should have stayed in the Senate, and for the disorganization he brought to state government, he deserves to be a turkey. But the department itself under new commissioner Harpstead does not.
In late August, Hurricane Dorian threatened the East Coast. Weather warnings were issued by the National Hurricane Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Except on this occasion, the president of the United States decided to tweet his own forecast warning that Alabama could be hit by this storm “harder than anticipated.” In fact, no such forecast had been given. In an attempt to head off panic, National Weather Service (also part of NOAA) Birmingham forecasters quickly tweeted out their own assurance that Alabama would not be affected by Dorian. But it got worse.
The nation’s Meteorologist-in-Chief produced a map from NOAA on which someone mysteriously expanded the zone of danger with a Sharpie to justify the Trump tweet. While the Sharpie’s owner remained anonymous, it was later suggested in a variety of news sources that it was Trump’s own hand and Sharpie that had altered the map. Weathermen on TV use interactive maps, but this is perhaps the first time a pretend meteorologist has used a Sharpie. Clearly, this Meteorologist-in-Chief is a turkey that flew right into Dorian. But because no harm was done other than to the morale of the scientists at the National Hurricane Center, meteorologist Trump is not our turkey of the year.
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is a sports conference co-founded by the University of St. Thomas 99 years ago. After a great deal of discussion by various MIAC member schools, and without a formal vote, it was decided that the conference would kick St. Thomas out.
The reason? Was UST sanctioned for violating recruiting or academic standards? No. The primary concern of MIAC presidents was that their own schools were not winning enough: St. Thomas had to go!
MIAC is either the athletic conference that doesn’t think schools should win or is otherwise unable to establish rules and regulations to achieve parity. Perhaps it should go all the way and abolish scoreboards and give participation trophies to team members. Maybe this is a manifestation of Minnesota Nice—it’s OK to win, but not very often, and certainly not as a habit.
Teams keep score for a reason. Athletic conferences have rules and regulations for a reason. Life is not always one big kumbaya circle. Except in the MIAC. So, while St. Thomas has been kicked out and will fly (successfully) to another conference, the MIAC is a flock of turkeys. That’s right, you are the first to hear that the MIAC is Minnesota’s turkey of the year.
Vance K. Opperman
Eating duck for Thanksgiving
Vance K. Opperman
is owner and CEO of MSP
Communications, which publishes
Twin Cities Business.