Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Mining Minnesota's "magical" governance

Do you remember "Laugh-In?" Arte Johnson played a German soldier character noted for saying "Verrrry interesting." Between J. K. Rowling and the Minnesota Legislative Auditor's Office, that's what this month's reading looks like, "Verrrry interesting."

is there a pot of gold at the end
is there a pot of gold at the end
Photo by J. Harrington

Rowling has announced the release of four new pieces on Pottermore, related to the history of magic in North America. The first two are available as this is being written. Given where we're at as a society these days,  we could undoubtedly use more magic in our lives. Do you believe it would be put to good use instead of mischief? Of course, if you believe any or all of the presidential candidates, one's good works are another's mischief. Something similar seems to pervade what passes for thinking in Minnesota's capitol these days.

That's why I won't be surprised if a bifurcation of opinion, and possibly an exercise in magical thinking, is triggered by a report to be released on Friday, March 18th, by the Legislative Auditor's Office. You may remember that last year the legislature directed that office to undertake an evaluation of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). A report summarizing the results of a similar effort from thirty years ago is available for those of you who want to look for improvements over time [see p 231 of linked report]. The purpose of current effort is outlined here. In light of yesterday's contentious start to the legislative session, and the array of issues facing our elected leaders, I'm not sure what to expect by way of a response no matter what the findings, conclusions or recommendations. On the other hand, one question that occurs to me is whether IRRRB funding is, or should be, committed to the University's MNDrive Initiative and whether that does or does not have anything to do with the U's Sustainable Mining Initiative.

A related question is whether Minnesota's governance structure includes a person or persons responsible for connecting such dots. The linkages in the world we live in are increasingly likely to become something to be tripped over. Furthermore, it's more and more obvious that even if we had unlimited resources, we couldn't all agree on whether they should pay the rent, the electric bill, for food, or go for cable. Do you suppose it would ever be possible to turn our legislature into a learning organization? Might the Iron Range ever create a vision for its future that isn't based on going back to the way things were? Will economic development in northern Minnesota always be based on chasing rainbows?

The Magic Trick

By Nicholas Friedman

Half clown, half Keebler elf, he works a throng
of meth heads and young mothers who peruse
the storefronts, tugging surly kids along.
The pant legs bunch around his wing-tipped shoes.

When a couple walks up to his TV tray,
he hands them each a tattered business card.
Who wants to see a magic trick today?
He grins and cuts a deck: His hands are scarred,

but seldom shake. The two confer, agree,
and fidget as the magician fans an arc
of cherubs laced with flips of filigree.
The man inspects them for a crease or mark,

but they look clean. I’ve watched him do this trick
for weeks now, each time to polite surprise:
He hams it up; he lays the charm on thick.
(As always, haughty jacks materialize.)

The woman smiles and nods in mild content.
Another trick: He pulls a wrinkled bill
from his lapel and folds the president,
explaining how a wise investment will

turn one buck into ten—et cetera.
He taps twice on the bill, a modest “one,”
unfolds it square by square, and then voila!
the bust of Alexander Hamilton.

They clap as the magician takes a bow.
He’s greasy, but he’s on the up-and-up,
and magic tricks are good enough for now.
The woman floats a dollar to his cup.

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