Monday, May 11, 2015

Is Minnesota Broken?

If you track local news stories, you could develop an argument that an increasing number of issues continue to be unresolved, meanwhile, the list of issues needing resolution keeps growing. Here's a small sample of what I'm talking about.

northern Minnesota
northern Minnesota
Photo by J. Harrington

  • Many of the rural communities in greater Minnesota are looking for subsidies to build "workforce" housing for workers who would move to the area to fill jobs with local companies that would grow if they could find the employees. Local rents are often low enough to make new construction unable to qualify for financing.

  • Meanwhile, some Twin Cities communities are in opposition to Metro Council water supply initiatives, work force housing plans and projects, and continue to debate the question of investment in roads versus transit and what type of transit.

  • The Iron Range is once again suffering major mining-related layoffs amidst an abundance of part-time, service jobs that don't pay a living wage. (Of note, of the half dozen counties in Northeast Minnesota (St. Louis, Itasca, Aitkin, Lake, Cook and Carlton) only Lake County is classified as dependant on mining, according to the Economic Research Service.)

  • Despite a forecast state budget surplus of $2 billion, the legislature is, as usual, engaged in brinksmanship as a negotiating strategy.

Twin Cities development
Twin Cities development
Photo by J. Harrington

The list above is far from complete. It is also far from encouraging. I wonder how long it will be before Aaron Brown's observation becomes true not only for the Iron Range but for the rest of the state as well.
"What often emerges... is the kind of frustration with the status quo that would likely chill the spine of politicians and consultants alike. I don’t mean these students are agitated; rather, they’ve quietly accepted that they’ll need to move on. Meantime, the ones who want to stay would happily work anywhere in exchange for proximity to hunting, fishing, lakes and family."
More and more these days, we seem to be lacking both good government and good governance, both of which keep us from reaching good, or at least workable, solutions. That troubles me much more than the potential problems climate change may bring to Minnesota. The issues are going to be more complex and expensive in the future. We need to find better ways to respond than we've shown so far, and we need to accept sometimes the best choice is to find the time and place to move on or else we'll be stuck in the past. We may also need to be more rigorous with our answers to the question "are we well represented?" Are we truly better off today than we were a decade ago?

The Choice

By Nate Klug 

To stand for once
outside my faith

to steady it
caught and squirming on a stick
up to mind’s
inviting light

and name it!
for all its faults and facets


or keep waiting

to be claimed in it


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