Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What do we really want?

Sometime, somewhere online during the past several days I came across an article suggesting a need for someone(s) to sketch out, in some detail, what a sustainable Minnesota would look like. [UPDATE: Found it.] Since I spent part of this morning in a dentist's chair, as an escape to somewhere more pleasant, I started thinking about that. The sketch out part is fairly easy. The details get more complicated, of course. (Remember God, or the Devil, is in the details?) Part of the reason the details are such a challenge, I believe, is that we don't really know what we want and, at least as troubling, we don't have a good mechanism to talk about what we have in common and try to reach agreement on that. We used to, and, in some limited areas, maybe we still do. But, I believe, we have neither the breadth nor the depth needed, nor do we treat a need to reach agreement as a priority. We seem more interested in winner take all or being a free rider.

Today, as this is being written, folks in District 3A are casting their ballots in a DFL primary special election to select a candidate to succeed Representative Dill. From what I've read, the contest is being cast as a "copper mining referendum." Continuing a win-lose, either-or mindset. I wish more folks would consider: if many northern Minnesotans didn't believe they had to rely on mining for "good jobs," what kind of jobs would they want and how could we develop those jobs? Let me try to explain another way: I've been told that not too far back in my family's history we're proud to have some Irish immigrants who came to America and took jobs as ditch diggers because that was all they could get. One of the most important things those immigrant ditch diggers wanted was for their kids to have a chance to be more than a ditch digger when they grew up. It's possible that Iron Range miners don't want more for their children (a "better" mining job?) than some of my ancestors wanted for theirs, but I doubt it.

Minnesota used to have a state planning agency. Years ago, under a (moderate) Republican governor, we had a series of milestones that specified goals we wanted to reach and provided measures tracking how well we were doing in attaining those goals. We no longer have a state planning agency, or any sort of real replacement for what we once had. We no longer have Minnesota Milestones, or any realistic replacement for what we once had. Maybe we became embarrassed to see how slowly improvements came, if they came at all. Maybe, I suspect, the process was dismissed by the next Democratic governor because it had been originated by a Republican. So now we're faced with the old precept "You ain't lost if you don't care where you are." Have Minnesotans bought into the idea, under a different Republican governor, that all we want is more for me, even if it means less for us? I read today that our current Democratic governor is going to ask for funding to promote Minnesota during the Ryder cup (to be played at Hazeltine) telecast next year. We'll have lots of new sports stadia to show, along with major disparities in education achievements and income distribution among all our citizens. (The latter aren't terribly photogenic unless you're Bobby Kennedy.) Twenty years from now would we want to show off a PolyMet NorthMet mine project with all 350 "high-paying jobs?"

I didn't at the time think that the Minnesota Milestones were all that great, although I'm pleased to note they didn't reference sports stadia. We now have better tools to measure how well we're doing. As an example, look closely at the triangle above. We just chose not to use them or improve on them. We'd rather argue about whether the Metro Council is doing its job when we've never really done much to talk about what that job should be. That seems to have gone the way of other milestones.

The same Donella Meadows who wrote the report shown above, also wrote about how hard it is for people to try to envision what they really want. She also explains wonderfully how much is gained by the effort of trying. I believe Minnesota has too much to lose to not try again, try better. Don't you?


Christina Davis

The love of each of us
for some of us,
                        of some of us
for all of us—
                        and what would come if it were
                        welcome, if learning were
                        to prepare “a self with which to
           the in-
admissible,        stranger
whose very being gives
evidence of
a discrepancy. School of our just
beginning to think
about this,       I believe
the seats will be peopled.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.