Sunday, January 4, 2015

A few million here, a few million there ...

Does this year feel to you like no more than a continuance of 2014? I think I'm starting to notice the slow emergence of a more positive, optimistic vibration. On the other hand, I clearly recall one of my house painter Irish relative's response to a "good morning" greeting. He'd look at you and reply "That it is, that it is so far, but it's early in the day yet. Give it time." And then, years later, when I'd moved to Minnesota, I learned about the farmer who, at the end of an almost perfect growing season, with just the right amounts of rainfall and sunlight at just the times that the crops needed each the most, was concerned that all that growth might be pretty hard on the soil. It is early in the year. The legislature isn't in session yet. The Republicans are in charge of Congress but that's just getting underway. Give it time and we'll see how things turn out, but I'm hoping that this year will actually be an improvement on last, which, in hindsight, wasn't all that bad.

sunrise, too early in the day to tell
sunrise, too early in the day to tell
Photo by J. Harrington

On the other hand, we have politicians who don't seem to be able to grasp that building new infrastructure or making short-term money saving deals requires, in the longer term, that it be maintained and that the piper must be paid. I'm referring to today's article in the Strib about Minnesota's broken bridges, ruined roads: All agree something must be done. So there's concern about raising taxes, fixing roads and bridges, all, or at least most, of which was on the table when Minnesota committed something in the order of $350 million for a new St. Croix River bridge and is looking at another $220 million to relocate Highway 53 near Virginia so taconite mining can continue. No doubt, with the Republicans in charge of the Minnesota House, and looking for ways to reduce the DFL hold on The Range, funding for greater Minnesota projects will sail through the House while transit projects may fall by the wayside. I really wish more Minnesotans would read, and demand their legislators read, about the ponzi scheme that comes from relying on growth to cover infrastructure investments.

the new St. Croix River bridge
the new St. Croix River bridge
Photo by J. Harrington

The issue isn't limited to suburban development. Let's be sure to keep a careful eye on how the legislature responds to an anticipated request from Essar to forgive a $67 million loan on a steel plant that's not going to get built. I'm reminded of the saying by the late Senator Dirkson "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money." Now, since this is Minnesota, and not the entire United States, it's only fair to rephrase the Senator's saying to "Millions here, millions there, pretty soon, you're talking real money." Do you think we'll live long enough to be represented by folks who realize that one of the key issues in budgets isn't whether on not to spend money, but how to spend it wisely?

The Bridge Builder

By Will Allen Dromgoole 

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

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